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"Hearts Beat Loud" does, indeed, have its heart in the right place. More importantly, it's heart is in an interesting place.

But it has so many loose ends. Yes, so does life. But life is not a screenplay. Things don't have to be tied up with a bow, but they do have to go somewhere. In this script by director Brett Haley and Marc Basch, too many characters are left wandering.

Happily, the two characters center stage do not, and that sells the film.

Meet Frank Fisher (perfect man-child Nick Offerman). Frank owns a failing record store in Brooklyn and has a daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons), set to go to UCLA to pursue a medical degree. Sam's mother died when she was young.

Frank is a frustrated musician, and he and Sam have family jam sessions. Pulling Sam out of a funk one night, they write and record a song; Frank puts it on Spotify and declares they are now a band called We Are Not a Band. Lo and behold, the song becomes a low-level hit and the gray-bearded Frank starts planning gigs he can play with his college-bound daughter.

So we have a film where mixed aspirations get in the way of a family bond. Sam does love playing music with her dad, but life is leading her elsewhere. Frank, on the other hand, has nowhere else to go; he's an essential American Peter Pan, refusing to face age and responsibility. This can't end with everybody happy.

But it does end well, except for the extraneous characters. Toni Collette plays Frank's landlady-maybe-love-interest; Ted Danson plays Frank's bar-owning friend; while Sasha Lane plays Sam's girlfriend -- and any one of their characters could have been dropped from the script without changing the essence of the film. Their inconsequence distracts.

But it doesn't sink the boat. This look at a full grown man exulting in delicious folly while life has other plans for him, and at a young woman wondering if she should sacrifice all to indulge that folly is a sensitive balance of dreams deferred and chased. Its heart does indeed beat loud.

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.

 

"Hearts Beat Loud"

GRADE: B-

Rated PG-13 for some drug references and brief language

Running time: 97 minutes

 

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